Why NC Town Rejected Solar Panels

Last Updated:
Fri, 2018-04-20 11:46

Concerns vs. Facts

You may have heard by now that the town of Woodland, NC rejected a proposal for a solar farm following public concerns. Citizens expressed their fear and mistrust of solar energy technology, blocking Strata Solar Company to build a solar farm off Highway 258.

Strata Solar had proposed a solar farm around Woodland because the town has an electrical substation where the solar power generated by the panels could be hooked up to the electrical grid.

The Planning Board had recommended the property be rezoned to allow Strata to build the solar farm, but, due to public concern, the town council voted for a complete moratorium on solar farms. Interestingly, the Woodland town council had previously approved three other solar farms, with one of them now putting solar panels up. However, a vote later in this meeting effectively called for a moratorium on future solar farms.

Woodland, NC on map

The Vote Heard 'Round the World

This local news story was first reported by the Roanoke-Cowan News-Herald but has been making itself known to international audiences due to the ridiculous concerns expressed by the Woodland community. Journalists have been careful to report the story earnestly, but many readers can see the innate humor; some of the quotes simply shine through on their own.

Solar Energy Concerns from Woodland Residents

Solar farms could suck up all the energy from the sun.

  • The Facts: Solar panels indeed convert radiation from the sun into direct current electricity; however, because this energy is constantly replenished via natural resources (the sun), it is actually desirable that we take advantage of this naturally available energy instead of relying on current methods of energy production. National Geographic found that enough solar energy falls on the earth in one hour to satisfy global energy needs for a year.

Businesses won’t come to Woodland.

  • The Facts: There are a number of factors that may influence where a business resides. A solar farm actually attracts a variety of stakeholders and businesses that will want to participate in the development and ongoing maintenance of the property.

Solar farm could “dry up” Woodland and cause young people to move out.

  • The Facts: On the contrary, the millennial generation (born between 1980 and mid-2000s) is the most environmentally-conscious group in U.S. history. David Weinberger, Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment at the Roosevelt Institute, surveyed 3,000 millennials for the Think 2040 project and found that many view environmental protection as a value to be incorporated into all policymaking than as its own isolated discipline. That being said, a solar farm in Woodland would likely be attractive to young people.

Solar panels could prevent plants in the area from photosynthesizing, stopping them from growing.

  • The Facts: Solar panels do not “steal” or take sunlight from surrounding areas. Plants have the same opportunity to gain sunlight with or without solar panels nearby. Again, sunlight is naturally replenished, so there is enough to go around.

Solar panels could cause cancer.

  • The Facts: There have been no studies or reports linking solar energy to cancer. Solar farms are proven to be safe and exist next to homes.

Solar panels could prevent job opportunities for young people.

  • The Facts: As noted above, young people support renewable energy. The production of a large solar farm would likely create jobs. Findings from The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2014 found that the solar industry employs over 173,000 solar workers. The report also found that one out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S. was created by the solar industry – representing 1.3% of all new jobs.

Solar panels could lower the value of citizens’ homes.

  • The Facts: There are no negative impacts on property values statewide.

A possible downside, if you will, to the Woodland solar farm is the fact that the power generated would have gone directly into the electrical grid and would not have reduced power bills for Woodland residents. Nevertheless, the Strata Solar Company believed the solar farm would have been a wonderful use for a property like this. The benefits outweigh, or shall I say refute, the concerns.

Solar PV Array

I’ll be interested to see if the Roanoke-Cowan News-Herald publishes an update to this story. Since the vote early last week, countless articles have been written recapping the news – some unbiased and others full of mockery. The names of the aforementioned concerned citizens have been prominently identified, as well as their occupations, where relevant. I’m curious to know if those individuals have been swayed at all in their views of solar energy, given the backlash that this vote has caused. I’m sure no one expected this to become an international news story. Then again, the timing could not have been better – what with the COP21 international conference taking place in Paris.

*COP21 Update: A climate change agreement was adopted by “consensus." Individual countries now must ratify the agreement, which won’t enter into force until 55 countries have ratified it. Those nations must account for 55% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.